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Saturday, May 2, 2020

A Testament of Steel - an Advance Review


I have read several books by Davis Ashura (as evidenced by prior reviews!), and am beyond pleased to post an advance review for an upcoming release, A Testament of Steel, which is currently available for pre-order.


In the efforts of full disclosure:  I was sent an ARC (advanced reader copy) of this book in exchange for an honest review.  I am also going to attempt to make this review as spoiler free as I can, but it’s going to be tough.  But I’ll do my best.  

As I’ve read many of Mr. Ashura’s works so far, I went into this one expecting much of the same.  While Ashura’s books are incredible in terms of world building and developing engaging stories and characters you become truly invested in, my one small complaint is that sometimes his works are a ‘slow burn’.  While he pulls this off well (as I’ve said in previous reviews), it does make it a bit harder in the beginning to keep focus.  

This book, however, was NOTHING like that.  From the start, and I mean literally within the first few pages, I was sucked into Cinder’s tale like a vortex.  This book started off with a bang, and I actually stayed up til the wee hours of the morning in my first reading session because I wanted to know where this story was headed.  

Cinder Shade (the main character) awakens at the bottom of a well, having no memory of the prior sixteen years of his life.  This coupled with prior events culminate in his undergoing some very serious life changes, such as leaving his village home in Swallow and moving to the town of Swift Sword.  It soon becomes apparent, even from the beginning of this initial journey, that Cinder is not quite the same person that he used to be.  And there is a VERY good reason for this, although it would probably fall into the realm of spoilers if I were to divulge why. 

Cinder, in his new found life at Swift Sword, soon finds himself with a new purpose as well - that of becoming a warrior.  He is perpetually working towards his goal of self-improvement, realizing he has innate talents and abilities that he technically should not have, and over the course of the book he winds up gaining entrance into the highly prestigious Elven training academy, the Third Directorate (which gave me some Harry Potter-esque vibes).  There, he is again driven by his goals, desiring to become a warrior of renown, and again surprises everyone with just how swiftly he progresses.  AGAIN, there is a VERY good reason for this, so please, dear reader, do not feel that Ashura has fallen into some trope of poor writing by making his character unstoppable/undefeatable.  Just keep reading, it will all make sense, I promise you.  And if you’ve read any other works by Ashura, you will likely figure out the reasons behind it all quickly.  Just saying. 

A Testament of Steel offers more variety, in my opinion, in regard to races than Ashura’s prior works, and honestly, the book gave me some major Lord of the Rings vibes in some ways, since there were elves, dwarves, and numerous other fanciful creatures, such as spiderkin (Shelob, anyone?) and yakshins (think of Ents!).  This added some depth and layers to the tale, as elves don’t think too highly of any race other than themselves (they call themselves the “Blessed Race” - WHAT?).  This ties in with the book’s nod toward a developing love story, which, from the looks of things, is destined to be incredibly complicated.  On a side note - DAVIS ASHURA HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?! AAAAAAAARGH! 

Overall, this has likely been my favorite of Ashura’s works to date.  It was an extremely hard book to put down once I got started, since the characters were so vivid and well-written.  I wanted to know what was going to happen next to Cinder - what mess he was going to put himself into, how the various tournaments would be decided, just how low those accursed Elves would stoop against Cinder...it was truly one of the most engaging tales I’ve read in some time.  While it does offer some benefit to have prior knowledge of Ashura’s works and the world he has created within them (hint hint), I do also feel that one could pick up this book and have no issues whatsoever with having no prior knowledge. 

This has been an incredibly wordy review, but I felt it was necessary to try to get my point across as to just how great this book truly is.  A Testament of Steel is a compelling tale, one that is sure to quickly ensnare the reader and take them on a journey like no other...well….almost. ;)

A Testament of Steel is available for pre-order on Amazon HERE, and will be released July 20, 2020.

Monday, March 2, 2020

My Quest to become a Polyglot

I am fascinated by language.  I'm not really sure if I can articulate why, truthfully, but it's been that way for as long as I can remember.  I've been a 'word nerd' since my elementary school days, and have always enjoyed utilizing unique vocabulary into my everyday speech (much to the chagrin of others, I am sure!).

Despite my fascination with languages, I never undertook the task of attempting to learn a second language.  I dabbled, at best, using apps like Duolingo and such, but never went further than simply learning a few basic words and phrases.

Then, several years ago, my friend (Hi, Ace!) introduced me to a YouTube channel of a husband and wife who at the time, were living in Korea.  I was quickly sucked in by the channel, and watched a ton of videos (still haven't managed to make it through all of them!).  I was enthralled by the aspects of Korean culture they highlighted, such as K-pop, Korean beauty products and the Korean language.

As a result, one day while scrolling through Twitter, a suggested account popped up, which was that of Talk to Me in Korean, a website dedicated to helping people learn Korean.  And so, mostly on a whim (as seems to be my typical modus operandi), I followed the account, decided to give the free lessons a go, and see what happened.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Super Simple Latte Hack


Do you, like me, like..no, LOVE lattes?
Is it the taste of creamy milk coupled with delicious coffee that drags you from your slumber each morning?  Or perhaps it is the elixir of life that propels you through the second half of your day?

Do you, also like me, detest the fact that these delicious cups of magic can have SO. MANY. DANG. CALORIES?!?!?!

If any of the above applies to you (and trust me, I see you sitting there, crying into your coffee mug, commiserating with me at the unfairness of it all), then have I got some great news for you.

I have discovered a super simple, low calorie, high protein hack for lattes.  It's so easy, you're going to say "why didn't I think of this?!"  It will keep you feeling full way longer than a traditional latte (thanks to the high protein!), and it tastes amazing

For this hack, you will need only three ingredients.  That's it.  Just three.

A coffee mug/cup (for obvious reasons), a protein shake (the brand doesn't necessarily matter, this is just my favorite), and of course, coffee. You can use any type you like. I've tried this with several blends, and each one is equally delicious.  The one shown here is my favorite.

The flavor of the protein shake isn't too terribly important either.  Vanilla flavor is best since its the closest to a milk flavor, with caramel being a close second, but chocolate will also work.  Of course with chocolate you're veering more into mocha territory but...let's just keep going, shall we?



This hack works best with cold coffee (sorry, hot coffee lovers), so what I do is brew my cup the night before, and stick it in the fridge so it's nice and cold in the morning.  This also helps my hurricane style mornings go much more smoothly.
You can also brew a pot of coffee and also store it in the fridge for multiple uses, if K-cups aren't your jam.  I've done this as well!

Then, in the morning, take your nicely chilled cup of coffee, simply pour in your protein shake, stir and enjoy.
(Side note: depending on how much coffee you chose to brew, you may have to

That's it.
Seriously.


(Why yes, this is a different cup than what was in the previous photo. Shhhh…)



Bonus video of me pouring the shake into the coffee, as I think it's pretty.
(Don't judge me.)


And that's it!  I told you it was simple!  Now, go forth, be caffeinated and energized, all for a low calorie count with tons of protein! 

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year’s Eve and New Things

“Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.  Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” - Isaiah 43:16-19 (King James Version).

I received these verses in an email this morning and felt they were incredibly appropriate for New Year’s Eve, as we are on the cusp of 2020. 

While 2019 was a year of new and amazing things for which I am overwhelmingly thankful, I am anticipating the Lord doing new and even greater things in my life in 2020. 

Happy New Year, all!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thankfulness: or an Attitude of Gratitude

I know, I know, the 'attitude of gratitude' phrase has been used repeatedly and is borderline cliché at this point.  However, indulge me for just a moment please.  We're going somewhere with this post, and the phrase fits in so well with what I want to say that I felt it was worth including.

A while back (honestly, I don't really remember how when I "officially" started), I undertook the task of learning Korean.  A lot of people have asked me why I chose Korean, and I am afraid I don't really have any particular reason other than I randomly found a Twitter account for Talk to Me in Korean, thought it looked interesting, and decided to go for it.  I also am a huge fan of Korean beauty products, so being able to read the labels without translation seemed pretty nifty too. 

In the first lesson from TTMIK (Talk to Me in Korean), two phrases are introduced, which are 'hello' and 'thank you'.  

I'm sure you know by now which one I'm planning to discuss at length here by now, right? ;)

Note: all phrases/explanations of the Korean terms are taken from Level one, lesson one by TTMIK.  Just so we're clear, and to give credit where credit is due.  

'Thank you' in Korean is '감사합니다', which is composed of two phrases/words.  The first is '감사' (gamsa), and '합니다' (hamnida). 

감사 means 'appreciation, thankfulness, gratitude', and 합니다 means 'I do, I am doing'.

Therefore, 감사합니다, though it translates to the formal/polite 'thank you', can also be seen as 'I am appreciative, I am grateful, I am thankful', etc.  The 'I am doing' part indicates that it's an action, something that is actively being expressed or exhibited. 

Thus the title of the post, and the use of the 'attitude of gratitude'.  Thankfulness is an action, an attitude.  We should strive to constantly be in the state of mind of thankfulness, regardless of what situation that we may be in.  It sounds cliche but there truly is always something to be thankful for. 

I know sometimes its difficult to see the good, especially when things look bleak and discouraging.  But that's when this attitude or act of thankfulness should come in.  Look for the 'silver lining', the little things, no matter how small it may be, and start there.  Be thankful for an especially pretty leaf, or the great song that just came on the radio.  Start small and work up from there. 
I'm not saying that it's easy, and I know I fail miserably at it at times.  It's an effort that must be made, and one that I am striving to implement more often. 

Today is Thanksgiving in the USA, hence this post.  However, thankfulness is something that should be practiced every day, not just once a year.  The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:20 says "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." 

Always.
Every day.
Every hour.
Every minute.
Always.

This post is a bit of a mess, but I hope you understand what I'm trying to get across.  Look for something to be thankful for every day, put on that attitude of gratitude, and see what happens.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Snorlax is my Spirit Animal

02/05/2020 Edit:  So, the credit card I made my purchase on waaay back in September was compromised today, and while I cannot prove that it was linked to this company, I cannot say that it WASN'T.  In the interests of all parties involved, I'm removing all links/references to the company.


Remember my recent post about my Lilo cosplay? Of course you do! (and if not, click the link to go read it, haha!)

I posted a quick blurb about it on my Instagram (which you can follow if you feel so inclined), I was contacted a company called (REDACTED) about becoming an ambassador.  

Can I just pause and say holy cow at the number of links so far in this post..?  I promise there won't be too many more!
Okay, moving on.

After a lengthy debate regarding the offer, and perusing the various wares offered by (REDACTED), I decided to accept and order myself a new kigurumi.  I had ordered a Pikachu one from Wish many many months ago, but as a result of my weight loss, it's now hopelessly too big.  Sad face.  Honestly, it wasn't really terrific quality to begin with, but for the price I paid, it worked well enough and I loved it.  

But it was time for an upgrade.

I decided to order a Snorlax kigurumi, since we share many of the same qualities.  Predilection for falling asleep in random, inconvenient places, waking up solely to eat...you see where I'm headed with this, right?  XD

My kigurumi came in the mail last week, and I was SO EXCITED that I literally ripped open the package and put it on right then. 

Super adorable, right?!
And then I promptly took it back off and tossed it into the washer, because it smelled pretty awful, not even lying.  A quick wash and dry later, I was back in my snuggly Snorlax kigurumi, and ready for action.  And by action I mean raiding the fridge.
Decisions, decisions...
As disappointed as I was with the quality of the Pikachu kigurumi I ordered from Wish, I was that impressed with the quality of the Snorlax one from (REDACTED)! 

It's a wonderfully warm, soft fleece, and feels exactly like wearing the most comfortable blanket.

Even goes great with my taco cat socks!
The hood is nice and thick, and it actually stays on my head comfortably when I feel like wearing it.


While I could certainly extoll the virtues of my new Snorlax gear for quite some time, there is a very important reason I am making this post about it.  See, as part of the Ambassador program, I get a special discount code to share with my followers.  Which means...

You can have your very own Snorlax kigurumi!  Y'all, we could make an army of Snorlax..es...wait.  What's the plural of Snorlax? Snorlaxes? Snorlaxi? >.<
Or you could choose an Espeon, or Charizard...OR you could get any of the other awesome cosplay items on their site, all at a discounted price!

Yep, you read that right.  Just use the code SMREE at checkout to receive 40% off your order.  
Easy peasy.

Be sure to tag (REDACTED) on Instagram in your photos should you decide to purchase (and feel free to tag me as well).  I'd enjoy seeing my Snorlax army grow...but I'd enjoy seeing anything else you purchase as well! 

And in the efforts of full disclosure:  I was not paid by (REDACTED) to post this, nor did I receive my Snorlax kigurumi for free (though I was given a discount).  However, I will receive compensation for any sales made using my code. 

Happy shopping, and happy Snorlax-ing! :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Free Pokeball Crochet Pattern

A few years ago while prepping for a local craft show, I developed this Pokeball pattern, thinking it would be popular with kids (and kids at heart).  I made a total of six for that particular show, and sold every single one of them.  They've become a stock staple now, and each time I have them at a show I sell at least a few (if not all) of them.

Not only do they sell well, they're fantastic attention grabbers too!  I typically display them in a large platter at the front of my table, and they've attracted numerous folks to my table.  I now know the favorite Pokémon of many children, who are excited that someone 'older' gets it.  

I have been meaning to write up this pattern into a more legible form for some time now, and finally have managed to do it.  To give you an idea as to what the original pattern looked like, which I wrote down as I was making my first ever pokeball...

Make sense to anyone else?  Or just me??  Haha!

The full pattern is available below, or you can download a free PDF copy from my Ravelry store. (While you're there, check out the other patterns I have available too!)